County Executive Candid-ate Vince Horrigan recently outlined his proposals to reduce the cost of welfare payments in Chautauqua County, which cost local taxpayers over $5 million every year in local tax dollars.
"While we certainly want to help those who need temporary assistance get back on their feet, welfare was never intended to be a permanent way of life. I am determined to break the welfare cycle, reduce welfare costs and help more of our low income population to self- sufficiency and a better quality of life," Horrigan said.
"As County Executive, my focus will be to make sure that every able-bodied welfare recipient is actively engaged in job search, job training and work experience. If an able-bodied welfare recipient is identified as failing to comply with work participation requirements, they should be promptly counseled, sanctioned and then terminated from receiving welfare benefits."
Reducing welfare caseloads will result in a reduction of county taxes, which will provide much needed tax relief to local property owners. According to the independent nonpartisan Tax Foundation, Chautauqua County ranked 8th in our nation in 2010 (the latest data available) as having the highest property tax rate as a percentage of median home value.
Lower tax rates also will help Chautauqua County businesses be more competitive. Therefore, lower welfare costs will result in lower taxes, resulting in a more competitive business climate and more private sector jobs. Everyone benefits from lower taxes.
Horrigan has already been working on strengthening the welfare employment programs in the county.
"As a member of the County Legislature, I have made the issue of employability one of my top priorities," Horrigan said.
Horrigan has been a member of the Human Services Committee and has been actively engaged in the welfare-to-work program and the Chautauqua County Department of Health and Human Services.
"I am pleased that our front-end screening has avoided nearly $5 million in welfare expenditures during the first seven months of 2013. In addition, the welfare-to-work participation rate has increased by over 70 percent since last year. I commend the progress made by our Chautauqua County DSS team and fully expect that current initiatives will yield more savings and raise our participation rate even higher," Horrigan said.
Earlier this year, Horrigan led an employability summit that was sponsored by the Rotary Club of Jamestown and included more than 80 leaders from business, education, government and service providers. This initiative has led to the formation of a Chautauqua County Employ-ability Coalition. Horrigan is currently a member of the coalition steering committee, which has adopted the mission of moving Chautauqua County welfare recipients into gainful employment.
Last month, Horrigan was involved in the poverty roundtable with Congress-man Tom Reed, NY Assem-blyman Andy Goodell and members of the Human Services Community, where he provided valuable insight to Congressman Reed.
"It is clear to me that welfare reform at the Federal and NY State level is high on the list of our elected representatives. I have engaged both elected representatives as well as NYS Senator Cathy Young to gain their support to reform the welfare process. By focusing on the outcome of self-sufficiency we can use incentives and a more streamlined process to improve the welfare system," explained Horrigan.
While we certainly need the help at the State and Federal level, we can also continue to improve our local process to deliver the most efficient services possible.
"As County Executive, I will use lean management practices to solicit our case workers and trainers for their ideas to streamline the process, improve job readiness and gain employer support to move more low income people to self-sufficiency. As County Executive, I will focus on outcomes and will continue to ensure accountability in the entire process," Horrigan stated.
Last month Horrigan announced a 3-part plan which included lean government, creating opportunity, and growing our businesses.
"Welfare reform is a key component of Lean Government, creating opportunity for our low income population and growing our businesses through tax relief and a quality work force," Horrigan said.